ORLANDO, Fla. — As freezing temperatures plague much of the country, electric vehicle owners may experience a decrease in driving range, compounded by the use of the vehicle’s interior climate control, AAA announced. Recent testing found that, when the mercury dips to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the HVAC system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41%.
That means that, for every 100 miles of combined city and highway driving, the range would be reduced to 59 miles, said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations.
“The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” Brannon said. “As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range.”
AAA tested five electric vehicles, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles, in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. Real-world driving conditions were simulated using a dynamometer (essentially a treadmill for cars) in a closed testing cell where ambient temperature could be closely controlled. To determine the effects on driving range, scenarios for cold and hot weather conditions — both when using HVAC and not — were compared to those of driving with an outside temperature of 75 degrees.
“The research clearly shows that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates, except the reality is most Americans live in an area where temperature fluctuates,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “Automakers are continually making advances to improve range, but with this information, drivers will be more aware of the impacts varying weather conditions can have on their electric vehicles.”